By Yuras Karmanau , AP
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine–A column of armored vehicles flying Russian flags drove into a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russia insurgents Wednesday, dampening the central government’s hopes of re-establishing control over restive eastern Ukraine.
Still, it was far from clear just who these mostly masked men were and what their presence meant for eastern Ukraine, which has seen a surge of support for closer ties with Russia and against the new government in Kiev, which wants closer links to Europe.
The six vehicles with troops in camouflage sitting atop entered the city of Slovyansk, a hotbed of unrest against Ukraine’s interim government. Insurgents in Slovyansk have seized the local police headquarters and the administration building, demanding broader autonomy for their eastern Ukraine region and closer ties with Russia. Their actions have been repeated in at least eight other cities in eastern Ukraine.
One of the men said they were Ukrainian soldiers who had defected to the pro-Russian side — which raises the specter of an uprising by defected Ukrainian forces in Ukraine’s eastern regions.
But an AP journalist overheard another soldier suggesting that the handover of the vehicles took place under duress.
“How was I supposed to behave if I had I had guns pointed at me?” the soldier, who did not identify himself, said to another